Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Colin Darcy
Length: 6 hours, 11 minutes
The US Coast Guard Station at Staggered Cove, Alaska, is considered a dead end on the career path, for most. That’s why native Alaskan and senior rescue diver Karl Radin is suspicious of a high-flying recent academy grad, Dan Farnsworth, who’s requested an appointment there. Still, the station is a man down since Axe, a rescue swimmer, was lost at sea a few months ago, and Karl hopes Dan turns out to be a strong swimmer and good replacement.
Dan is grieving the loss of his half-brother, Axe, the man who essentially raised him. Adrift and looking for answers, Dan is investigating what may have pulled his hero so far from home. He has no reason to trust Karl Radin, but the more he works with the cool and competent chief, the more he begins to question if the incident was a tragedy, or more than anyone expected.
This is a really interesting investigation-turned-romance. There’s an early attraction, but it’s tempered by their mutual suspicions. Karl quickly cottons on that Dan has big secrets, but he’s willing to let things develop both professionally and romantically at an appropriate pace. Having been raised near Staggered Cove, Karl’s familiar with its secrets, and the local drug culture is both constant and constantly in flux. Folks get into trouble and disappear. While Axe being lost on a mission didn’t immediately ping that intuition for Karl, Dan’s probing into the incident, and being in places that locals knew for bad, well, they tip him off mightily. Confronting Dan, it’s clear that working together is the only way to start piecing together a mystery that has far more complexities than either suspected.
I really liked both the mystery and the romance elements of this one, with the slow burn and physical demands of their jobs helping to cement an unexpectedly tender romance. Karl’s suspicions regarding Axe’s disappearance align with those of Dan, and it brings both of them into serious danger—especially when equipment begins to malfunction on their missions. The narration was good for the limited cast, and the vocal variations for townies made the humor pop. As an audiobook, I really experienced the tension of the climactic build up, as well as the more tender moments. Karl is gruff, but compassionate, while Dan play-acts young and dumb, for a bit, to try and hide his secret mission. I felt like the narrator really brought that nuance out, with good cadence and emphasis that helped me visualize the action and intentions of each character. Regarding the setting, it’s a remote and harsh environment. The Coastie bits felt very realistic, and the narration helped bring those tense missions alive. Likewise, the mystery parts, where Dan goes off on his own to gather intel, were handled just as adeptly. I love the quirky folk who live in Staggered Cove and enjoyed where the story took me. As it’s the beginning of a series, I’d eagerly read (listen) on.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.